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Symbolism in The Chrysanthemums John Steinbecks short story The Chrysanthemums shows Elisa Allen a strong capable childless woman of thirty-five who is frustrated with her present life with her husband Henry a man of unscrupulous confidence French 83 She longs for what womens magazines vaguely call romance Segal 215 and is a woman who has a strength of will usually identified with men as well as an ambiguous combination of traditionally masculine and feminine traits Hughes 59 Through symbolism Steinbeck shows how Elisa struggles to fulfill her personal social and sexual needs as a woman in a world dominated by men The story opens by describing a high gray flannel fog of winter that closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from the rest of the world This image represents Elisas depression boredom and lack of change in her life The heavy fog is further described as making the valley appear as a closed pot which is in relation to Elisas emotions and how she keeps them to herself and keeps them inside Elisas frustration to conform to a womans role is evident when she is first introduced She is described as blocked and heavy because she is wearing heavy gloves heavy shoes a mans black hat and a big apron that hides her dress Her home has masculine qualities as well being hard swept and hard polished Elisa is bored with her life and her husband and is trying to extend her female role into other masculine areas As a dominant symbol Elisas chrysanthemums are the very backbone of the plot Hughes 60 They symbolize Elisas role as a mother as she is frustrated with her life because children and romance are missing in her marriage with Henry She tends to her garden with love and care just like a mother would to her child She even explains lovingly to the tinker how to care for them as if they
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